Scientists believe that a gluten-free vegan diet, which excludes animal products, could help protect people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) against heart attacks and stroke.
The researchers found that such a diet lowered cholesterol, while at the same time it raised levels of natural antibodies against the damaging compounds in the body that cause symptoms of the chronic inflammatory disease.
The findings, which have been published in the journal Arthritis Research & Therapy, were based on research into 66 rheumatoid arthritis patients at the rheumatology unit of the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden.
The researchers said that a bigger study group would be needed in order to establish which particular aspects of the diet help RA sufferers the most.
The disease affects more women than men and causes pain, swelling and inflammation in the joints. It is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
It is believed that an estimated 387,000 people in the UK are affected by the condition.